The highly sensitive subject of female genital mutilation dominated much of the Ethiopian blogosphere over the past week.
The sudden interest was sparked by news that an Ethiopian man had been jailed for 10 years in the US for aggravated battery and cruelty to children after prosecutors claimed he had used a pair of scissors to cut off his daughter’s clitoris.
The central accusation was that he had been engaging in the traditional practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) that is common in some African cultures including Ethiopia.
It is a subject that rarely appears in the mainstream media – and is seen as too taboo for general discussion.
But Ethiopia's bloggers rose above the embarrassment and squeamishness that often surrounds FGM and came up with a series of passionately thought-out posts and arguments. Their readers also did their bit. The comment-count under each substantial entry was well into double figures.
Almost everyone who wrote about it went out of their way to condemn the practice.
Female Genital Mutilation is barbaric. The quicker everyone is made to understand that fact and to stop making polite excuses for it, the quicker shame and fear of the law will save millions of girls and women from a perverse worldview centered on their own essential ‘sin’
of being born female.
wrote ethiopundit in Fear of a female planet.
Living even in the most civilized country, Ethiopians seems to have problems escaping from the tight hold of tradition. The father who was jailed for the genital mutilation of his two-year-old daughter is a case in point. Is this a desperate attempt of a father to shelter
his daughter from the permissiveness of American culture?
wondered I Was Just Thinking in The tight hold of tradition.
The “traditional” practice of Female Genital Mutilation (or ‘cutting’ for the squeamish or ‘circumcision’ for those in denial) is the most shocking thing I have come across since moving to Ethiopia
wrote Meskel Square in Ten years for genital mutilation.
Unsurprisingly, Ethiopia's female bloggers came up with some of the most pointed criticism of FGM as a tradition.
But almost all of them then went on to mount passionate defenses of the man whose conviction had sparked off the whole discussion.
Khalid Adem is Innocent wrote Ewenet Ethiopia, one of a steady stream of new names on the Ethiopian blogging scene (‘ewenet’ means truth).
Khalid simply does not fit the profile of an Ethiopian who would
insist that his daughter be circumcised. He is not a nomad or peasant
who immigrated from rural Ethiopia. He grew up in metropolitan Addis
Ababa and came to the US at the age of sixteen. He is an educated,
urban and modern African man who became an adult in America. It is
extremely unlikely that a person like him would even think of having
his daughter circumcised- let alone do it himself.
In Ethiopian, men never ever get involved in the actual ritual of
female circumcision. FMC is a female ritual, and it is always the
women (especially the grandmothers) that insist on and arrange for the
circumcision ritual by a traditional practitioner.
Ethiopia Encyclopedia, another new blogger on the block, took issue with commentary on CNN that implied that most Ethiopian immigrants would cut their daughters. She also questioned the evidence given in the court case in Ethiopian man circumcises 2 year old daughter?
I just have one question and I think it can reflect the question of anyone with COMMON SENSE. How can any child or human remember an event that occured when they were the age of two? Furthermore, how could she have remembered that it was specifically her father who circumcised her?
Weichegud! ET Politics was also far from convinced. In “Ethiopian Man Convicted of Female Circumcision”… Uhh…?, she wrote:
I've spent a few hours reading about this case and … folks, as much as I am a feminist-in-stilettos, there is a lot wrong with this case, not that you would know it by reading a totally hysterical article that is dependably posted on CNN. The man, Ato Kahlid Adem, was going through an exceptionally nasty divorce and custody case from a South African woman who only noticed that her daughter was circumcised after the separation? And the vivid details with which the seven-year-old girl remembers what happened when she was two unsettles me.
The last word goes to Free Khalid Adem yet another new Ethiopian blog set up specifically to fight for the convicted man. In Khalid Adem Is Innocent! it concluded:
Khalid Adem is innocent. This is a false accusation. He is decent, hard working ,and law abiding person. He couldn't have done such a
Elsewhere, Ethiopian bloggers remembered the first anniversary of post-election unrest in their capital Addis Ababa that left just short of 200 people dead.
Carpe Diem Ethipoia described the traditional mourning of the family of one of the victims in When parents bury their children: A story I've been dying to tell. Weichegud! ET Politics expressed her anguish in Burnt by Tears and Blood.
Things We Should Have Written Down came up with the most evocative post of the fortnight in Midnight in the Mini-Bus of Good and Evil, a description of a long bus ride from the ancient city of Harar to Addis Ababa:
A sharply dressed, neatly groomed young man shared his bundle with the teenage DVD-wielding girl, and there bloomed a romance that seemed to progress through every stage of a relationship during the twelve hour trip. First, timid conversation and flirting: they exchanged names and examined each other’s cell phones. Second, an act of kindness: he shared some of his chat with her. Third, deep conversation: they spoke of their families and their lives in Addis and Harar. Fourth, a move is made: he gently put a strand of her hair back beneath her tightly drawn shawl. Fifth, intimacy: she took of her head covering and laid her head on his shoulder. Sixth, comfort: they slept together for some time, intertwined like seasoned lovers. Seventh, discord: he gives her shoulder one caress too many, she retreats to the window, they stop speaking. Eight, separation: she leaves the bus at her stop without a final word or glance in his direction.